Dead Woman Pickney
A Memoir of Childhood in Jamaica
Publication Year: 2010
Dead Woman Pickney chronicles life stories of growing up in Jamaica from 1943 to 1965 and contains both personal experience and history, told with stridency and humour. The author’s coming of age parallels the political stages of Jamaica’s moving from the richest Crown colony of Great Britain to an independent nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Taking up the haunting memories of childhood, along with her astonishment at persistent racial marginalization, both locally and globally, the author sets out to construct a narrative that at once explains her own origins in the former slave society of Jamaica and traces the outsider status of Africa and its peoples. The author’s quest to understand the absence of her mother and her mother’s people from her life is at the heart of this narrative. The title, Dead Woman Pickney, is in Jamaican patois, and its meaning unfolds throughout the narrative. It begins with the author’s childhood question of what a mother is, followed by the realization of the vulnerability of a child without its mother’s protection. The term “pickney” was the name for slave children on sugar plantations, and post-emancipation the term was retained for the descendants of enslaved Africans and the children of black women fathered by slavers. The author struggles through her life to discover the identity of her mother in the face of silence from her father’s brutal family.
A wonderful resource for teachers of history, social studies, cultural studies, and literature, this work could be used as a starting point to discuss issues of diasporic identities, colonialism, racism, impact of slavery, and Western imperialism around the world. It is also an engaging read for those interested in memoir and life writing.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Life Writing
This memoir is excerpted from my doctoral dissertation. During the ten years it took me to conceive, research, write, and find a publisher, many people encouraged me by sharing their own stories and affirming the...
My body signifies many stories. My female body,which is to say my brain, my heart, my soul, my flesh, my physiognomy, and my spirit, all are marked by events of the past into which I was born. It is the past of the...
Chapter 1 Early Childhood Memories, 1947–50
One day, a fateful day, sometime in the fourth year of my troubled infancy, as I was just recovering from the asthma that nearly took my life, something particularly terrible happened to My Aunt Joyce and me.1 The...
Chapter 2 Louisiana Blues, circa 1950–54
Eutedra must have grown tired of Cee’s lying and bullying. She must have resented the way in which Cee brought his three children into her dwelling as if he had brought three gifts. For her purposes, the only way they could...
Chapter 3 Life and Schooling in May Pen, circa 1955–62
I came back to May Pen in 1955, some eight years after that unhappy day when my father snatched me away. Some of the old places remained, some were new, and others were gone. I recognized several buildings...
Chapter 4 Clarendon College, Chapelton, January 1960–July 1961
In January 1960, my dream to attend Clarendon College in Chapelton came true. I was happy. Certainly, I would have liked to attend a more prestigious high school, such as St.Andrew’s or St.Hugh’s, but this was never...
Chapter 5 Becoming a Teacher: Mico College, 1962–65
So if I could not continue at the bank, then where would I go? I considered nursing or secretarial work, but they were not for me. In high school, I had failed miserably at shorthand and typing. I still cannot type...
Coming to the end of researching and writing this memoir, I am forced to reflect upon the overwhelming dominance, wealth, and power of the British empire of my youth on the one hand.While, on the other hand...